SMU Series Win Sets Up Showdown
Bryant Nakagawa punctuated a five-run rally in the series finale with a walk-off hit for Saint Martin's in a 5-4 win on Saturday.
Bryant Nakagawa punctuated a five-run rally in the series finale with a walk-off hit for Saint Martin's in a 5-4 win on Saturday.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Northwest Nazarene would have liked to have had the GNAC regular-season title race all but wrapped up by this point. After running into a suddenly dangerous Saint Martin’s squad, it is anything but.

Saint Martin’s took three of four games from the first-place Nighthawks and did so with three late-inning rallies. The cherry on top was a five-run comeback in the seventh inning of the series finale off Division II saves leader Max Holtzclaw, one of two losses the Nighthawks’ stud reliever took over the week. The Saints were named GNAC Team of the Week for the achievement, which cut Northwest Nazarene’s lead in the standings to just one game over Western Oregon, who hosts the Nighthawks this weekend.

“We’ve been waiting for our breakthrough moment as a team,” head coach Kelly Gau said. “We got a bunch of great performances this weekend.”

One such performance, a strong start from Finnley Butler, put the Saints off on the right foot in the series on Friday. The sophomore threw seven innings, giving up two runs, one earned, on six hits. After NNU briefly took the lead off the Saints’ bullpen, SMU won the game on a Cody Chavis RBI double and Reid Little two-run single.

Saint Martin’s saved their best rally for last. In the seventh and final inning of game four, the first two batters reached on a single and a throwing error, prompting NNU to bring in Holtzclaw, who leads Division II with 10 saves this season. After the pitching change, Chayson Dulatre walked and Griffin Williams was hit by a pitch to force in the Saints’ first run, but a strikeout and a sacrifice fly meant the Saints were down to their final out at 4-2 with runners on first and second.

Shortstop Ryne Oshiro kept the game alive by working a full count and poking a single to right field to score pinch-runner Alohi Arrechi, and Aaron Renaud hit an RBI single to score Williams and tie the game. The comeback was complete when Bryant Nakagawa, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the fourth inning, hit a fly ball that sat down in the gap in left-center allowing Oshiro to score easily, raising his arm in celebration down the third-base line.

Western Oregon took three of four from Central Washington, but in an uncharacteristic way. The Wolves, who lead the GNAC with a 4.30 ERA but rank only fourth in batting average, exploded for 40 runs in four games against the Wildcats. At the center of that effort was GNAC Player of the Week John Stark, who went 5 for 13 with four home runs and eight RBI. Stark hit a three-run bomb in Friday’s loss and then caught fire Saturday with a two-run homer in the opener and two solo blasts in the nightcap. His week of production helped him tie NNU’s Grant Kerry for the league lead with nine home runs.

The two series taking place this week hold significant GNAC Championships implications. Northwest Nazarene and Western Oregon will meet for four games separated by one game in the standings. Northwest Nazarene took three of four from WOU in the previous series between the two clubs this season. Additionally, Montana State Billings will host Saint Martin’s with the Yellowjackets holding a three-game lead over the Saints for the third and final qualifying spot.


John Stark, Western Oregon
1B/C • 6-1 • Fr. • Riverside, Calif.
Stark batted .385 to lead the Wolves to a series victory over Central Washington, going 5 for 13 with six runs scored, four home runs and eight RBI. Stark hit a three-run homer in Friday’s 10-9 opening-game loss. The rest of his production came on Saturday, going 1 for 3 with a two-run homer, two runs scored and two walks in the 11-4 opening-game win and going 3 for 3 with a pair of solo home runs and an RBI single in the 8-7 series finale win.

Also Nominated: Tyler McClain (Central Washington), Duke Pahukoa (Northwest Nazarene), Aaron Renaud (Saint Martin’s).

Justice Yamashita, Saint Martin’s
RHP • 5-10 • So. • Honolulu, Hawaii
Yamashita threw another gem to help Saint Martin’s land a series victory over league-leading Northwest Nazarene. In Friday’s 2-1 second-game victory, he allowed one run on two hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in the complete-game effort. Yamashita threw 92 pitches in his fifth win of the season.

Also Nominated: Brayde Hirai (Central Washington), Haden Keller (Northwest Nazarene), Parker Johnson (Western Oregon).


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• Central Washington lost three out of in a home series against Western Oregon. The Wildcats took the first game on Friday 10-9 in 10 innings but then lost 12-4 on Friday and 11-4 and 8-7 on Saturday.
Michael Peter batted .462 during the series with two doubles, three runs scored and three RBI. In Central’s 10-9 win, Peter hit 3 for 4 with a two-run triple and eventually scored the game-winning run on Charlie Larson’s single in the 10th. Peter is batting .265 on the season.
• Although CWU would lose the next three games, Tyler McClain continued his red-hot month of April, batting .400 with a league-high nine RBI over this week. McClain drove in at least a run in every game of the series with a two-run double in game one, a solo home run in game two and three RBI in each of Saturday’s games. McClain is batting .331 with 26 RBI this season.
Brayde Hirai earned the win on the mound with four scoreless innings of relief in Friday’s opener. The Wildcats switched up their starting rotation as Josh Touhey (nine starts) and Jake Bradley (six) made bullpen appearances.
• Central Washington leads the GNAC with a .294 batting average and also has a league-high 7.84 team ERA. The Wildcats boast the offensive conference leaders in hits (Zach Berryman, 58), runs (Adam Fahsel, 42) and RBI (Austin Ohland, 41). Ohland ranks second in Division II with 21 doubles.
• Central Washington is off this week. They next face Saint Martin’s on April 29-30.

• Montana State Billings did not play last week. On April 8-9, they split a four-game series with Western Oregon, winning both Friday games 8-7 and 5-4 before Western Oregon won twice on Saturday, 8-6 and 10-6.
• Both of MSUB’s wins came via a walk-off hit from Tyler Godfrey. In the series opener, the ‘Jackets rallied from a 7-4 deficit in the bottom of the ninth, with Godfrey’s single plating Hayden Foltz to complete the 8-7 comeback. With the second game tied in the seventh and final regulation inning, Godfrey hit a two-out walk-off solo home run to right field off Seth Kuykendall to send the fans home happy. For the week, Godfrey hit .429 (6 for 14) with seven RBI, six of which came on Friday. He also contributed a two-run single in Friday’s opener and a two-run double in Friday’s nightcap before his walk-off hits. Godfrey was named the GNAC Player of the Week and NCBWA West Region Player of the Week from Apr. 4-10.
• Foltz also had a big week, batting .400, scoring six runs and driving in four. His biggest hit was a two-run single that ignited the series-opening comeback before he scored the winning run on Godfrey’s hit. Carson Green homered twice while Cooper Dulich and James Anderson also went deep for the Yellowjackets. Dulich leads the conference with a .362 batting average while Anderson leads the conference with 29 walks and ranks third with six home runs.
Blake Rainey got the win in Friday’s opener, pitching 2.1 innings of one-hit, one-run relief. Matthew Houlihan threw 5.1 innings in the nightcap before Tyler Elliott pitched the final 1.2 innings, giving up one run on one hit and no walks and recording all five of his outs via the strikeout. Elliott has a 4-0 record and 4.11 ERA in 11 relief appearances this year.
• The Yellowjackets are batting .284 and have a 7.02 ERA. They host Saint Martin’s for a four-game series on Thursday and Friday.

• Northwest Nazarene lost three of four to Saint Martin’s on Thursday and Friday. They lost 6-4 and 4-2 on Thursday and earned a 5-2 Friday win before dropping the finale, 5-4. The Nighthawks have seen their three-game lead in the GNAC shrink to one game ahead of a showdown with second-place Western Oregon.
Duke Pahukoa hit .364 with a home run and two RBI while working five walks to lead the Nighthawks offensively. He hit a solo home run in Thursday’s opener and an RBI double to score NNU’s only run in the nightcap.
Tyler Best collected two big hits in NNU’s Friday win, driving in two with a double in the second inning and two more with a single in the third. Best is batting .264 with 17 RBI this season.
• The Nighthawks scuffled offensively against Saint Martin’s pitching staff but were extremely effective on the mound themselves, pitching to a 2.73 team ERA this week. After throwing a no-hitter in his last start, Haden Keller got another complete-game victory, throwing nine innings and giving up two runs on four hits while striking out seven. Keller leads the GNAC with 54 strikeouts. Brock Moffitt also had a strong start, giving up an unearned run on seven hits in 5.1 innings, striking out six and walking none in Friday’s nightcap. Blake McFadden threw one inning of relief on Friday then made his first start of the season in Saturday’s nightcap, pitching three no-hit innings with a walk and four strikeouts. McFadden has a 2.40 ERA in 30 innings pitched this year. Shane Martin also threw three one-hit innings in the finale before things unraveled in the seventh.
• Northwest Nazarene has a .278 batting average and a 4.53 team ERA. They lead the GNAC with 35 home runs and have struck out the most batters (360) while striking out the fewest times (248).
• The Nighthawks are fifth in the latest NCBWA West Region poll, where they also ranked last week. Northwest Nazarene will travel to Western Oregon for four games on Friday and Saturday.

• Saint Martin’s earned a series win against league-leading Northwest Nazarene, winning both games on Thursday by 6-4 and 4-2 scores. On Friday, SMU lost the opener 5-2 but stormed back in the ninth inning to win the finale 5-4. The Saints were honored as the GNAC Team of the Week.
Aaron Renaud batted a GNAC-leading .478 (7-for-15) with three RBI and two runs scored. He was in the middle of every rally, scoring the tying run in each of Friday’s games and driving in the tying run in Saturday’s finale. Renaud leads the team with a .322 batting average.
• Saint Martin’s had the perfect starter for the nightcap in Justice Yamashita, who leads the GNAC with a 2.52 ERA and ranks second with a .205 opposing batting average, had already shut down the Nighthawks once this season. In Nampa back on March 11, Yamashita threw a seven-inning complete-game three-hit shutout in a 1-0 SMU win, the only game that Saint Martin’s won in the first four-game clash between the two teams. Yamashita nearly replicated his feat, allowing one run on four hits with seven strikeouts in another seven-inning complete-game effort.
• Yamashita wasn’t alone in pitching dominance. Kameron Richards pitched the final 6.1 innings of a nine-inning game in relief and shut down the Nighthawks lineup, scattering two hits and a walk to hold NNU scoreless.
• The Saints have a .244 team batting average and a 6.69 team ERA. Austin Schaler leads the conference with five triples.
• Saint Martin’s will host MSUB for a four-game series on Thursday and Friday.

• Western Oregon took three of four from Central Washington, rebounding from a 10-9 extra-inning loss in game one by win 12-4 on Friday and 11-4 and 8-7 on Sunday. The Wolves then defeated Bushnell 6-5 in a non-conference game on Tuesday.
•  John Stark had his own personal home run derby this week to win Western Oregon’s second offensive GNAC Player of the Week award of the season. Stark hit .385 over the four-game series with CWU. He recorded five hits, but four of them went over the fence to account for seven of Stark’s eight RBI. Stark and Northwest Nazarene’s Grant Kerry each have nine home runs to lead the GNAC.
Justyn Herzog swung a hot bat, hitting .412 against CWU with six runs and six RBI. Herzog hit two-run doubles in both Friday’s and Saturday’s openers and added an RBI triple in Saturday’s nightcap. Stark, Herzog and Derek Maiben scored six runs apiece for WOU while driving six or more runs in themselves.
Parker Johnson recorded his league-leading seventh win of the season in the final game of the series, pitching six innings of five-run ball. Matthew Dunaway began the year as a starter but has become a late-inning option for the Wolves, pitching the final frame in both nightcaps during the series.
• Against Bushnell, Western Oregon scored two runs in the third and three in the fourth thanks to an RBI double from Herzog and RBI outs from Maiben and Stark. Zach Valdez scored two runs. On the mound, Dominic Miller made his second start of the year and threw three scoreless innings while Curran Mitzel added 3.2 shutout innings of relief.
• The Wolves held steady at sixth in the latest NCBWA West Region Poll. They are batting .258 and lead the GNAC with a 4.30 ERA and a .974 fielding percentage, which ranks 13th in Division II.
• Western Oregon will host Northwest Nazarene on Friday and Saturday for four games. The Wolves trail the Nighthawks by a game for first place in the GNAC standings.